Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Sue's" Slanted Takes on Free Speech

While the attorneys for Professor Susan O'Malley continue to press her case for silencing Sharad Karkhanis, she is busy defending against the threat of "Islamophobia." CUNY staff, faculty and students, as well as our employers--the general public--recently received invitations to the following event:

"Academic Freedom & The Attack on Diversity at CUNY — An Urgent Conversation
Debbie Almontaser, Professor Susan O Malley, Mona Eldahry...Adem Carroll...
Monday 04/28/2008; 6:00 - 8:00 pmRoom: Social Lounge (5414)CUNY Grad School 365 Fifth Avenue (34 St)...

Around the country, Islamophobic and Anti-Arab attacks on professors have increased, most notably at Columbia and Barnard. This movement to attack and discredit dissent has been called “the New McCarthyism” –shutting down reasoned debate on important issues. Unfortunately this hurtful trend is also significantly represented at CUNY at its Trustee level, in the person of Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, who is also head of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition....

With no factual basis, Wiesenfeld’s STM coalition has been waging a relentless attack on Brooklyn’s Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual language public school, depicting it as an “Islamist vocational school…with an Arab supremacist mindset in the mold of KGIA’S principal Dhabah Almontaser.” Forced out of her job by right wing tabloids & with no push back from the Bloomberg Administration, Founding Principal Debbie Almontaser has been fighting for her rights. She has been defended by educators, community groups and parents in coordination with Communities in Support for the Khalil Gibran International Academy...

Ms. Almontaser will appear on this panel along with CUNY Professor Susan O’ Malley and others working to expose the attack on academic freedom across the nation:

PLEASE JOIN US: There is some urgency here as these attacks are one tip of a vast ideological iceberg that is also threatening to impact the current election campaign. What does this mean for CUNY students and faculty?

Co-sponsored by MESOMiddle East Students Org:
CISKGIA:(Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy)
For more info contact
Zeeshan SuhailWeblog:"

Here at the Free Speech at CUNY blog, we are not quite sure what a "vast ideological iceberg" would look like--due, perhaps, to the effects of global warming. We are quite sure that Professor O'Malley, Ms. Almontaser and company have First Amendment rights to warn about it, however, and to criticize such critics of the troubled Khalil Gibran International Academy as CUNY trustee Wiesenfeld. We'd prefer that their tone be a little less shrill and a lot more civil, but this is a matter of taste, not law. Free speech isn't always decorous, after all.

Nor should it be dangerous. Thus we continue to marvel at O'Malley's ability to denounce Sharad Karkhanis' exercise of his First Amendment rights as libel, while at the same time attacking her political and ideological opponents with unabashed glee.


Sorry "Sue," Sharad's Not Been Silenced Yet

As our CUNY colleague Mitch Langbert notes:

Karkhanis Blasts Professional Staff Congress

Sharad Karkhanis, who has been attacked in a Professional Staff Congress (PSC)-related law suit, has just released his latest newsletter, Patriot Returns. Karkhanis offers brilliant coverage of David Seidemann's case, about which Candace de Russy and I have blogged. The Chronicle of Higher Education has also covered the case. Karkhanis notes:"Convinced that the PSC had treated agency-fee payers unfairly, David Seidemann, a Yale educated full professor of Geology at Brooklyn College, has been patient and tenacious in seeking justice. Since 2002, he's amassed voluminous documentation, collected and examined all relevant information and legal precedents, and pursued the PSC with the tenacity and conviction of an irate faculty member. Seidemann sensed that there was some hanky panky going on with his and your hard-earned dollars. The 1% of our gross salary that goes to union dues or agency fees should be spent for our benefit rather than being diverted to further the New Caucasians' political agenda."Karkhanis asks:"Our question is, although permissible in the eyes of the law for the union to spend monies to march, parade and shout out loud to bring pressure on the management on behalf of the dues paying members, how germane is it for the PSC to spend dues money on excessive participation in such activities?"See the entire blog here. The PSC leadership has spent its time on anti-Iraqi War crusades while neglecting its function of representing faculty. Barbara Bowen and her colleagues have failed CUNY's faculty.

Posted by Mitchell Langbert at 2:13 PM
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Reminder to "Sue": Satire is Protected by the First Amendment

A timely reminder from our good friend Phil Ornstein at Democracy Project:

Struggle Si, Surrender No!
The leading article in the latest issue of The Patriot Returns was one of the funniest pieces I’ve read in a long time. The faculty union of the City University of New York (CUNY), the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) is at it once again, and TPR satirizes the revolutionary zeal of the leadership and their myriad political crusades, this time standing in solidarity with the Mexican teachers on strike in Oaxaca. This current issue demonstrates that the TPR newsletter hasn’t lost its satirical cutting edge. Since last September the Editor, Dr. Sharad Karkhanis has been fighting a $2 million defamation lawsuit filed against him for daring to express disapproval of PSC-CUNY union official Susan O’Malley’s attempts to find teaching jobs for convicted terrorists within the CUNY system. It’s a sign that TPR is still chock-full of its acclaimed spit and vinegar and Dr. Karkhanis is prepared to go the distance to fight a frivolous lawsuit that aims to silence him and shut down TPR, the only insider’s watchdog of the dangerous antics of the PSC.

There has been no response from the O’Malley camp since early March, when Karkhanis’s attorneys filed an answer to all accusations in the formal legal complaint, O’Malley v. Karkhanis denying every single charge and concluding that O’Malley has no case whatsoever. Dr. Karkhanis resolutely denies having published any material in TPR that was defamatory and refutes the claims that O’Malley has suffered damages and her reputation has been harmed. The answer to O’Malley’s complaint states:

The Defendants' utterances here at issue are expressions of opinion that pursuant to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States are not actionable. The defendant's utterances here at issue are legally protected satire.

The publication of political satire is a First Amendment right. Criticism of Susan O’Malley, a public official who has been trying to place terrorists on the CUNY payroll, is a free speech issue in a free market of ideas and opinions, not slander or defamation of character. American colleges have become so backward that Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Abigail Thernstrom lamented, they have become “islands of repression in a sea of freedom.” Now they seek to utilize the courts to legalize their repressive status quo in order to permanently silence critics and watchdogs. In order to continue the fight until all the charges of defamation are dropped, friends of Dr. Karkhanis have set up a legal defense fund in the name of The Patriot Returns, Inc. to help defray the cost of current legal bills and to fight all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. They ask for your donations to help fight the battle for free speech not only for Dr. Karkhanis, but other faculty and students whose First Amendment rights are likewise being infringed by repressive campuses.
The Patriot Returns has been doggedly exposing the fanaticism of a PSC union leadership more absorbed with fomenting workers revolution against capitalism and American imperialism, than securing a good contract for the membership, and for his exemplary work, Dr. Karkhanis is being sued for $2 million. Their irregular behavior has recently manifested in numerous PSC political resolutions proposed at the 2008 NYSUT Representative Assembly opposing the “U.S. Policy of Permanent and ‘Preemptive’ War,” supporting the “Jena 6,” extending “Solidarity to Peruvian Teachers,” opposing “U.S. Expansion of the War into Iran,” and scarcely any resolutions advancing the welfare and working conditions of the CUNY faculty membership. The PSC has introduced resolutions in support of striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico at the bi-annual American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston and the 2006 PSC Delegate Assembly, which were passed without dissent. PSC also organized a couple of demonstrations at the Mexican Consulate in Manhattan to show solidarity with their comrades in Oaxaca. They widely promoted rallies on campus for their “brothers and sisters” in Oaxaca and more recently the militant striking teachers in Puerto Rico. They made CUNY campuses their base of operations, organized faculty and students and employed such tactics as “tabling, roving the cafeteria, faculty distributing flyers to their classes, getting signatures and donations in department meetings” in order to build a mass movement for international worker’s struggles.

The hard work of the PSC on behalf of international striking teachers has garnered laudatory reviews on the pages of Challenge, the revolutionary communist blog of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) which boasts that it will smash capitalism through armed revolution.

PLP is now teaming up with the PSC, bringing the lessons home to CUNY campuses of the ongoing struggle against capitalism taught by the striking teachers in Oaxaca and Puerto Rico. With their rallying cry, “¡Lucha sí! ¡Entrega no!” (Struggle yes, surrender no!) and enthusiastic support from the PSC, they have organized recent CUNY PLP forums, and are planning future conferences, rallies and a Party newsletter at CUNY, in order to advance their violent communist objectives and win new believers. Heaping praise on the PSC, they show their affection to their dear comrades in arms: comrades in the PSC know we must intensify our efforts amid these kinds of struggles to build the Party itself at CUNY. The Party is the essential weapon to win, not reform demands to be reversed by capitalists’ state power, but win all workers’ liberation — communism.
We must not allow this frivolous lawsuit to shut down political speech and silence TPR, or for that matter any other free press watchdog committed to exposing the dangerous machinations of the PCS on CUNY campuses. With this as a background, here then is the article in the current issue of The Patriot Returns. Please enjoy...

Dear Valiant Oaxaquenos:Once again we stand by you in complete Solidarity during your great struggle against those who would enslave us all, the Imperial Corporatist NeoLiberals, or as we call them, the NeoConservatives. While we may say potato, and you say patata, we both understand that these groups are one and the same. These Dark Lords will not rest until they extinguish all the major centers of worldwide revolutionary activity, and that makes our PSC-CUNY Union the biggest target on the planet. Read more...
Phil Orenstein Apr. 14, 2008 12:36 AM